Mercy on Ice This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The six swimmers plunged into the pool. Silence followed as they coasted under the water, until one, two and three resurfaced and swam. Yes, it was a race, but you can’t win in the first leg.

My brother, Dane, was swimming in lane five, and I was counting for him. There’s only one event at the high-school level where someone needs to count for the swimmer - the 500 freestyle. I soon came to the last card, which meant the last 25 meters. Dane flipped, pushed off and started swimming like his life depended on it. The swimmer in lane four was right behind but couldn’t beat him. Cheers rose from the stands as the team surged to its feet and rushed to Dane’s lane. Not only did Dane have an opportunity to swim in the state meet, he won!

After the meet, Dane said the team would probably stop somewhere on the way back to Kalispell. My parents and I told him we’d see him the next day and to have fun, then left for home. We stopped to eat on the way and then continued. I didn’t have my seat belt on, but when I noticed the snowstorm swirling around us, I put it on. The storm petered out and left the landscape covered in white perfection. I usually fall asleep on long trips, but for some reason I didn’t that night.

As we drove through the mountain pass my mom said, “Slow down, you’re going too fast!” Well, she was right. As we took a turn, we hit a patch of black ice and all hell broke loose. As soon as I noticed we were sliding, I grabbed our dog and held him close. Meanwhile, my dad was trying to keep the van on the road and my mom was silently panicking! The car, despite Dad’s best efforts, went into a triple 360, and instead of sliding off the road, headed toward the concrete barrier that separated the two lanes of traffic. My side of the van slid toward the barrier. I could see every little scratch and bump in the concrete as it rushed toward me. Suddenly, we spun in the opposite direction, moving away from the barrier, until we were off the road.

I kept thinking, Who was the man who pushed our car away from the barrier and where did he go? I asked my dad, “Did you turn the wheel so we would go the other way?” He explained that he had covered his head with his arms when he saw we were going to crash, so his hands were not on the steering wheel. I looked out my window to see if I could see anyone, but the road was empty. I didn’t realize I still had our dog until he started licking my chin.

After we all calmed down, my dad and I got out to see if we were stuck in the snow. It turned out we were. My dad tried to figure out what to do, turning on the hazard lights and praying for someone to come. Several cars and ten minutes passed before help came from a truck driver.

Apparently he had seen our lights and decided to see if he could help. It may sound easy, but a semi with a full load doesn’t exactly stop on a dime. He looked at our van and suggested we put something under the front tires to give them more grip so we could drive back onto the road. We tried a tarp but when that didn’t work, we had my mom try to drive while the truck driver, my dad and I pushed the van. That didn’t work either. Then my dad got into the van and started moving the front wheels and pushing the gas pedal. We finally made it back onto the road. We thanked the truck driver, telling him we would be fine.

Stopping at the next town we came to, we spent the night at a hotel and the next morning checked out the van. The front tire alignment was a bit off but there was no other damage.

It has been several years since the incident, but I still remember every detail. I carry on the family tradition of swimming the 500 freestyle at the state meet, but now I am more cautious about our trips home, even though I know that my guardian angel, the mystery man who saved us, will always be there.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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